Feminism and dating are not mutually exclusive

There is nothing wrong with being progressive and fighting for gender equality while also engaging in traditional relationships

Modern dating looks different from the more formal courtships of the 1950s. Gone are chaperoned dates and declarations of going steady; enter smartphones and swiping right.

Dating can bring extra challenges when you have staunch beliefs about social justice or identify as a feminist. But forming intimate, interpersonal relationships is a valuable experience. Contrary to popular belief, you can fight "the Man" while dating a man.

Before I continue, I recognize that not all women are attracted to men and that gender itself transcends these two categories. But for the purposes of this article I use language that refers to heterosexual relationships between two cisgender people because that is the area in which I have personal experience.

By now, I hope it is clear that feminism is not man-hating. There are tons of myths about feminism to debunk (yes, some of us shave our legs and wear bras. Even if we didn’t, what of it?). But the man-hating stereotype is one preconceived notion that just won’t die.

Given the pervasiveness of these false ideas, it may come as a surprise that you can be a feminist and also be fiercely devoted to a man.

Read more about dating in college here.

I have been with my boyfriend Joseph for six years, and I think of him as a fundamental shaper of my identity. We have pushed each other to thrive since we were teens. I feel the utmost joy when we’re together, and I crumble to tears when we say goodbye.

Feminists don’t hail from a separate species. They are people. People who enjoy feeling loved, who can thrive on selflessly nurturing a beloved partner. People who feel vulnerable at times, who want to be held in someone’s arms.

Feminists are human.

It can be easy and natural to tie one’s identity to another person in a long-term relationship, but there are ways to maintain independence while still being committed to one’s partner.

Amanda Luberto leads the downtown chapter of ASU’s I Am That Girl, a club focused on female friendship and empowerment of girls. She has been in a long-distance relationship since March 2015.

“We are very different people, despite the fact that we’re together and enjoy being with each other,” Luberto said. “Our hobbies are kind of different … He has an identity, and I have an identity, and our relationship has an identity.”

Luberto said dating the right people is also key.

“It helps that he’s a feminist, and I as a feminist wouldn’t be interested in anyone who doesn’t believe in equality,” she said.

Relationships between a feminist woman and her partner can be intensely rich and satisfying. Men who aren’t threatened by ambitious women are often ambitious and confident themselves. Two people who are strong in character, are passionate about their work, and believe in a cause higher than themselves are a truly unstoppable force.

In addition, women can be feminists and still choose to carry out traditionally feminine or domestic roles. Feminism is essentially about choice. Raising children and taking care of a family doesn’t make a woman any less badass than a CEO, and doting on a husband (who likewise should be mutually devoted and respectful) doesn’t mean you can’t be civically engaged as well or shut down sexist BS every chance you get.

This is not to say that being in a relationship is necessary for a full life. Singledom has become increasingly more accepted and even celebrated in pop culture. Just look at the popularity of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and the frequent discussion on the topic by powerhouse stars like Nicki Minaj. As a society we are finally starting to accept that women are complete all on their own and don’t need to have their name tied to a man in order to be respected.

But if you want to add “girlfriend” or “wife” to your identity, that’s cool, too. Beyonce herself is a perfect example of how you can slay on your own but also be one-half of a union. Her (recently rocky) partnership with Jay-Z in no way discredits her reputation as a total badass and feminist icon.

I am not the property of my boyfriend, but his equal. And we’ll take on the world together. As long as you are with the right person, you can have your feminist cake and date, too.

The other day I was riding the struggle bus and wasn’t feeling my best, letting down my usually strong guard. A text from my significant other reminded me I’m a badass. I kept going.

I can rock a diamond ring on one finger while flipping off the patriarchy with another.

Reach the columnist at lallnatt@asu.edu or follow @LibbyAllnattASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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